We have more students than ever this year, but there are still spots available at the Elementary School. We have three spots in the Early Childhood class, three spots in the Lower Elementary class, and two spots in the Middle Elementary class. Because we believe so strongly in learning happening through relationships, full classes--with room for each student's unique perspective and contributions--are what we aspire to.  


Please help fill our classes by spreading the word about BMS. For a limited time, currently enrolled Blue Mountain School families will receive a $100 tuition credit (up to $200) when they refer a family who enrolls at least one new child as a BMS student for the 2013-2014 school year.  


This program does not apply to students enrolling in the Friday Enrichment program. New students are children who have not attended BMS since 2009.  Tuition credit will be applied in the 2014 semester.


Stay tuned to your email and our Facebook group for more information and pictures.

Elementary Direction
Shelly Emmett
Shelly Emmett


With only 16 days of school under our belts so far this year, all of us are still in the process of getting comfortable just being and learning together. First things first, students and teachers need to get to know each other, make agreements about how to treat each other, and understand what to expect from each other in order to have a safe, healthy, and happy learning environment. This process takes a while, but because we believe so strongly in learning through relationship, it is vital if we intend to make progress together throughout the school year.
One of the things that sets us apart as a school is that we understand the primary importance of developing relationships with each other, so that our students can learn. We also know that human beings learn best when their social and emotional needs are met. Stress--which can take on a whole range of behaviors and characteristics--gets in the way of learning, so we work hard to establish positive relationships with our students so that we can help them with their concerns and stresses as they arise. Another distinction is that we help our students handle the inevitable stress that accompanies being human by teaching them specific mindfulness techniques to increase their awareness, calm their minds and bodies, and practice being at peace.

This is why, when we have our first conferences at the end of this month, we will talk mostly about our focus on how students are acclimating to school, to the classroom, to each other, and to their teachers. Of course, in the first weeks of school we balance this focus with lessons and school work that stimulate kids' brains and feed them academically, too. But we know that students will be hard-pressed to make academic progress if we don't tend to their social and emotional needs first.

For more information on Social Emotional Learning in schools, please see the Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning's website.   

A great article on mindfulness in schools can be found on University of California at Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center's website.  

High School Direction
Joe Klein
Joe Klein


Blue Mountain High School is off to a great start! Students are jumping right in to a variety of projects. The art class is designing and will be constructing a Blue Mountain High School sign to post outside the school entrance. A group of students are embarking on reviving a successful literary arts magazine and learning the steps to bring a magazine to publication, and in botany class, students have begun to familiarize themselves with some common plants in our area and their edible and medicinal uses. They've also met some of the most poisonous plants in the country (from a distance!).   


Earlier this month, we hosted a Parent Mixer where we received lots of wonderful feedback from our families about areas where we are spot on and a few places where we have room to grow. Here is a sample of those comments:


My high school student is feeling:
  • accepted  
  • tired
  • freedom of self expression
  • camaraderie
  • connection
  • unhappy with the homework 
  • at home
  • not challenged enough 
  • excited
  • comfortable in this group 
  • more challenged than in public school  

My high school student likes:

  • the social aspect
  • the classes, especially photography
  • the personal projects
  • being able to pursue interests
  • all the activities
  • being in a more mixed group
  • the homework
  • literacy magazine
  • small class sizes 
  • outdoor time
  • hands-on project building  

Thank you to everyone who has helped make our first month such a success!


Brien Egan, Jonathan Vandergrift, and Inge Terrill
Brien Egan
Jonathan Vandergrift
Inge Terrill


Brien says...  


We have been very busy this month in English creating our "All about Me" books, reading and analyzing The Giver, by Lois Lowry, and learning about the parts of speech.  We will finish The Giver with a culminating project/essay.  We have also been working with some Mad Libs and are going to start a project to create our own collaborative Mad Lib book soon.  After the fall festival and the class' improv performance of "The Origin of Seasons," we started organizing the committees and roles for making this year's edition of Colored Pencils. Finally, the students have begun their ancient cultures journals wherein they visualize themselves as people working and living in ancient Egypt and then write about their experiences and draw pictures to illustrate them. 

In mathematics, we are beginning our sacred geometry projects as we have been learning about Phi, golden rectangles, ratios and means.  We measured ourselves to find the ratio and made golden spirals in class.  We also went out into the woods to collect various natural objects to observe the way Phi's pattern is in all living things.  We learned that the ancient Egyptians used Phi in their mathematics as well as fractions. Also we found that they had a base 10 number system with no representation for zero.  The class practiced doing math using the Egyptian symbols and then went on to make our own math problems for one another using the symbols the Egyptians used.  We have been reviewing our basic core math skills as well in centers focusing on order of operations, exponents, place value, multiplication and division. 

Finally, we have been doing EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) regularly every morning in class as well as various other mindfulness practices including qi gong, mindful walking, pranic breathing, visualizations, and guided and sound meditations. The kids have really taken to it. We are also preparing to begin our "Caring Partner" project where each Demigod will help a fellow student in another class. Mentors will compliment, encourage, and work to help uplift their mentee's day by sharing kind acts, helping with classwork, and doing activities with the mentees.

Jonathan says... 


Each time I pull a lesson plan together, I always hope the students will be sincerely excited about either the topic or approach. Every once in a while my lesson is a complete flop, or sometimes the students are less than enthusiastic, but there are times when it feels like I hit gold. It's when the students really get engaged and the lesson becomes much more than I had ever planned. This is what I'm seeing when we are working on a section about current events 


Each week the students are asked to find a news story which has happened over the last two weeks and then answer three questions: 1) What is happening? 2) Why is it important? 3) What do you think? They can choose from any area of news - from the top stories to sports to entertainment. It can be an international issue overseas or something from the Floyd Press. The assignment is intended to get students to start looking at the world around them and begin learning basic critical thinking skills. I expected to take things slow, and figured I would need to walk many of the students through the process for the first few weeks.


These students have already taken off with addressing some major issues in the world today. They have written about the recent Syrian conflict, violence against women, and even the unidentified person impersonating a police officer in Floyd. The class has had some really good conversations with each other, and are showing understanding of some of the deeper issues in their reports. I have truly enjoyed these discussions with them and look forward to each week with them. (I'm also really glad no one chose an article on Miley Cyrus.)


Inge says...


The Demigods and I have been studying Health and Biology on Monday afternoons for the past few weeks. All of us have been enjoying our new classroom space!

We studied 6 out of the 13 human body systems last year, and we will continue to learn more this year and finish up the rest. So far this school year, we have been studying the Respiratory System.   

This year we will also be "nature detectives" and will be observing nature at school, at home, and on occasion at the Eco Village with the BMHS students. We are currently collecting dead insects that we find at home and at school. We are using hand lenses and a  dissecting scope to make our "up close" observations.


We have plans to learn so much more. So, stay tuned!

Dragon Tamers
Miranda Altice
Miranda Altice


We always start the first couple of months getting back into the rhythm and flow of school life. Meanwhile we've begun our science journeys into the scientific method to gear us up for doing lots of chemistry this year. During their first group experiment, the Dragon Tamers learned about the differences between chemical and physical experiments.

For the Harvest Celebration this year, we decided to read from the book Leaf Man by Lois Elhert. In preparation, we gathered various objects from nature including leaves, acorns, flower heads, sticks, berries, and stones. As shown in this awesome children's book, we sorted the objects and created various leaf people, animals, and scenes. The Dragon Tamers loved this, and it was a great way to connect with the earth during the transitional time of Summer to Fall. We used our nature skills to collect objects for our Harvest Celebration audience to use to create their own leaf people, animals, and scenes. I'm truly impressed by how far the Dragon Tamers have come in their reading and communication skills since the beginning of last year. It shows that all of their hard work has definitely paid off - and it only grew over the summer!

In Language Land, we've been working quite steadily on our grammar, handwriting, spelling, and creative writing. The creative writing is gaining popularity as the cobwebs are cleared from summer brains and imaginations fly from fingertips to papers.

Jenni Heartway
Jenni Heartway


The Power of Pictures


"Writer's Workshop... Writer's Workshop..."

As the song ends, I know that everyone is ready to begin one of our favorite times of the day, Writer's Workshop. This is a special time of day for the Silverberries when we gather together to listen, think, and (of course) create like authors. While opportunities for reading and writing are woven into every aspect of our day, it is during Writer's Workshop that we focus on the why's, how's and what's of writing.


One of the most exciting things about teaching writing to youngsters is how they view themselves as authors almost immediately. You may notice that I said "authors" rather than "writers." While the actual writing process may still be intimidating to some, the idea that their thoughts and ideas have value is exciting and extremely motivating.


We spent the first few weeks of Writer's Workshop talking about stories and noticing details in illustrations. We practice these types of drawings in our notebooks not because we're building our drawing skills, but because we are building our ability to remember and create details in our stories.


Many beginning writers are limited by the amount of text they're able to write. The limitation may be physical (fine motor skills are still developing) or because they are still growing their phonological awareness and letter recognition, or it may be because they aren't confident in their abilities to create text . By beginning our stories with drawings, we're able to overcome these barriers.  


Previously, it was thought that drawings were a precursor to writing. Now, we are finding that drawings actually support the writing process. When a student is creating a writing piece about a unicorn, if he/she has a drawing to refer to while writing it is more likely that the writing process will move along more smoothly because the drawing serves as a prompt to the text the student is creating.  


Looking at a student's Writer's Notebook is an amazing window into that child's understanding of story structure, settings, characters, and genres. The Silverberries have started some amazing books this week, and we look forward to sharing them with the larger community soon!

Hari Berzins
Hari Berzins


We are the Firehawks!


We love to play, pretend, and draw.


We are learning to read words in the -at family.


We are learning to write.


We love to dance and sing.


We chant during peacetime.


We eat together on a picnic blanket.


We ask to be excused.


We are very good at cleaning up after ourselves.


We are learning about personal space and how to kindly ask for what we need.


We love to sit in morning circle and breathe with Hari and our parents.


We are learning to attend to a group lesson.


We love ourselves and our friends and families.

Swinging Beetle Bugs
Stefi Schafer & Ashley Morales
Stefi Schafer
Ashley Morales

After just a couple of weeks, the children and us teachers have begun to settle into a routine. The SBBs (Swinging Beetle Bugs) chose their name on the basis of their interests: time spent on the swings and noticing insects all around us. We also learned each others' names by making the Friends song part of our daily routine. We even use ASL to sign the first letters of our names. The children have chosen a coat hook and a color for their name tag .They are getting the hang of what to do when arriving in the morning, how to move as a group when it's time to go to our enrichment classes, find their name at the lunch table, and get settled for Rest & Read.


Our week is busy. There is Mindful Monday, Try it Tuesday, Wandering Wednesday, and Thankful Thursday. Each day we are connecting our focus to the activities of the day. Our days are busy, too. In the morning we go to specials and have snack. During our morning meeting we talk about our daily jobs, the weather, and at what center we want to work. The children are practicing calm breathing with their flowers and are doing some yoga poses. Our circle is a time to listen to books, sing songs, as well as discuss ideas and questions we have.


In our first weeks together, read the book How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. It is a story about a boy who discovers that every person has an invisible bucket. When others are unkind to the boy, his bucket will "drip, drip, drip" and lose volume. When he experiences kindness, his bucket will "drop, drop, drop" and fill up again. As he observes others' buckets, he also notices that as he is nice to others his own bucket will "drop, drop,drop" and fill. We have used this image as we are discussing how friends feel; whether an action will drip and empty or drop and fill their bucket. After just a few days, the children are using the bucket metaphor to tell and check with each other on how they are feeling. To observe such understanding of feelings and level of empathy in a young child is awe inspiring and inspirational.


While we observed the children working at the table with the shape-sorters, I was once again amazed at the level of community the SBBs have formed in such a short time. The kids were working with focus, following the sample patterns on the cards, or simply filling their pegs as fast as they could. As they worked, each having a basket with shapes, there was rigorous exchange of shapes. They asked each other for specific geometrical shapes or colors and freely shared the available resources. During this particular activity the children learned about many concepts such as geometric shapes, color ID, sorting by various attributes, following pictorial instructions, counting, working independently, and completing a task. All these skills could easily be taught to a child, but it was the spirit of collaboration, the sharing, and the desire to help each other complete the task at hand that delighted our hearts.

This is just one of many inst
ances in which the children have displayed empathy and community in our classroom. Thank you, BMS, for allowing us to teach and learn in such a caring and supportive environment!

Literacy & Culture:
Reading Development
Virginia Klara
Virginia Klara

As your child advances in language arts and literacy skills, you may be curious as to where he or she is on the reading development curve. What skills do Emergent Readers possess? Who is an Early Reader? If you're curious about these concepts, read on, remembering that each child's cognitive development is unique and multifaceted, so these names provide only a broad framework regarding a child's overall development.



Emergent Readers


Emergent Readers mostly use pictures to "read" using the language patterns they have heard. Children at this stage of reading development are able to link their own experiences in response to what they see and hear as caregivers read picture books to them. They are beginning to make connections between oral language and print; some notice how printed words are used in books and on signs and packaging. Emergent Readers may recognize some high-frequency words, like STOP on a road sign.


Normal reading emergence takes place in children between preschool and age seven, depending on the child's interest and ability to concentrate and the amount of exposure to reading at home. Parents can help emergent readers by showing interest and enjoyment of reading by reading aloud to children daily. Have fun reading and rereading children's books by hamming it up, using variations in vocal tone and inflection to your child's delight.


As your child's attention span increases, use your index finger to start to trace along under the words that you read. The child will gain the understanding of the left-to-right directionality of written English and begin to notice the one-to-one correspondence of words seen and read. This simple technique will help your children's eyes and brains integrate the intricate skill of visually tracking print. 


Early  Readers


Early  Readers are sometimes referred to as Developing Readers. They have control over many early reading skills and usually have enough confidence in their literacy skills to explore unfamiliar material. Developing Readers begin to rely less on pictures and can use phonics to "sound out" easy words. They improve in their use of the strategies they learned as Emergent Readers and use clues such as the first letter of a word to make good guesses at unfamiliar words in context. Early readers "know" from visual memory several frequently encountered sight words. They can look back at the words they just read, recognize a word's recurrence, and often self-correct.


Early Readers are also learning to divide words into syllables and to read basic texts smoothly using appropriate phrasing. Parents can support Early Readers by continuing to read aloud to children daily. Revisit family favorite books, and encourage children to read them to you. Keep a few familiar books in the car and around the house so a child can read to themselves. Because reading and writing develop simultaneously, engage your child in making their own books or writing an alternative ending to a story.


To be continued... 

Yoga & Physical Education
Sarah McCarthy
Sarah McCarthy


Getting to know each other


The start of another year at BMS brings excitement as well as newness. Some are new to school altogether and some have moved to a new class with a new teacher. Every year the classes change with new groups of kids in them. So it makes sense to introduce group awareness exercises and team building activities to emphasize positive group dynamics. Getting to know each other takes time and we'll be working on it all year.


With the Demigods, Dragon Tamers, and Silverberries, we have been using partner yoga, games and team building activities to help kids understand what cooperation is and that they are an integral part of a group.


In the ' Blindfold Artist' activity,groups of three had to figure out a picture to draw with cottonballs while the artist was blindfolded. At the end of the activity, we debriefed and discussed creativity, cooperation, and communication.

The Swinging Beetle Bugs and the Firehawks started the month with Intro to Yoga, which includes some partner yoga and group yoga poses. We also played elbow tag, which is a simple, fun cooperative tag game.

For the next month we will be starting off our classes with centering and yoga asanas and then heading outside as much as possible to continue our group games and strengthening our group awareness. I look forward to autumn classes with awareness on the beauty of the changing season!

Corey Avellar
Corey Avellar


We started out the year with examining how the great world around us is filled with patterns. We explored those patterns and tried to put them on paper with nature collage, paint, marker, pencil, tissue paper and transparent and opaque shapes. You can check out our beautiful creations around our room and hall.

Another concept we have begun to discuss is that patterns change or look different from different view points. We have the front/side view or "person's eye view," bottom view from underneath or "worms eye view" (then we had a little side lesson about worms not having eyes, etc.), and the view from above or "bird's eye view." We are going to take all these concepts farther this coming month with silhouettes, shadows, and much more.

I am about to hang new art work, but you will have to wait for your parent's eye view because some of our art work is going to be used in other art work, but eventually it will all make it's way home. If you can't wait, and I don't blame you its so fun, then please come get a look at our displays.

P.S. Don't forget art day is Monday, so please make sure students wear clothes that can get messy!

Contemplative Studies


My goal for the first month of school was to increase awareness of mindfulness and start using it. We are always aiming for a calm mind, relaxed body with alertness. One of the exercises is to put our hands on our bellies. We feel our breath going in and going out, our bellies go out and our bellies go in.  


During this time, I became aware that most of our students are breathing improperly. Simply put they are using chest breathing as opposed to diaphragmatic breathing. That is, they are breathing shallow with the tummy going in on the in breath and the tummy going out on the out breath. How we breathe is very important for being calm and relaxed with alertness. Deep, slow breaths become almost impossible with improper breathing.  


We could all examine our breathe and learn proper slow diaphramatic breathing. It would be helpful to practice this at home with our children before bed and waking in the morning to connect and create calm happy moments in our lives.


"Breathing in my tummy goes out;

Breathing out my tummy goes in."

We hope you enjoyed reading the Indigo Messenger.

Be sure to  it to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you,

The folks at

In This Issue
Elementary Direction
High School Direction
Dragon Tamers
Swinging Beetle Bugs
Literacy and Culture
Yoga & PE
Contemplative Studies
Talkin' with Teddy
Parent Reminder
Board Notes
Oct 9: Board Meeting
Oct 9: Chess Club Starts
Oct 10: Adult Yoga Starts
Oct 22: Half Day
Oct 23-25: No School - Parent-Teacher Conferences
Oct 31: Halloween Celebration 

Chess Club: 3:15 Weds.
Adult Yoga: 3:15 Thurs.

The Elementary School office has a new occupant. You may recognize Teddy from Miranda's classroom last year. Teddy is our new mindfulness coach, and she helps us all remember to slow down and pay attention to the simple things in life. If you have a moment, stop by and say hello. 

We're not the only ones back to school. All the tiny bacteria and viruses are back, too, and lots of us are feeling under the weather.

Please make sure to re-read the school policy on illness. If your child isn't feeling well enough to be at school, please keep them home to rest.

Also, please remember to call the school by 10:00 am if your child will be out. 
As summer turns into fall, school is in full swing and so is the Board of Trustees of both the Elementary and the High School!

The Facilities Committee is busy making sure all buildings are winterized, while the Community Committee works on strengthening our relationships in the greater community. The Curriculum and Accreditation committee is looking into doing a school self-study, the Personnel Committee is developing director evaluations and assisting in professional development plans, the Development Committee is super-busy with an email fundraising campaign and creating a local coupon book, and Finance is keeping us on a great fiscal path.

Board President, Kristan Morrison, attended the high school parent mixer on September 20 to introduce parents to the board and encourage board involvement. This same invitation is open to elementary parents. We need your involvement! 

Which committee fits your talents?  Email Cassie Pierce or Kristan Morrison for a list of current committees and their roles to find out!

In Gratitude We Thank

David & Anita Kessler, Andrea Goodrum, Justin Grimes & Lore Deighan, Abel Duffy & Beth Spencer, Jenni & Perrin Heartway, Tommy Bailey, Denise Neal, Beverly Billand, Bob Grubel, Cassie & Scott Pierce, Roy & Cathy McCarthy, Chance McCoy, Toni Lamberti, Luke Staengl, Mitchell Berliner, Jubilee Cohousing Community, Edward Smith Jr., Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Survivors Trust of the Swokla Family Living Trust, Terrie & Alan Wood, Pamela Pinto Sessions, Inge Terrill, Thomas Smith-Alden, Joan Wages, Jessica & Anthony & Sekai Talley, George & Karen Lipson, Susan Weber, Ellen Fleming, Chris Newitt & Katie Cesario, Shayne Goodrum, James Shortt & Associates, Gail Scott, Bank of Floyd, Bell Gallery and Garden, and Kristan Morrison
for donating to our Growing Pains campaign.

Autumn Vaughan & Lotus Billand-Yard
for selling their art work to raise money for the Growing Pains campaign.

Karl Berzins
, Abel Duffy, Marcus Morales, Van McKay, and Andrew Volker for helping with facilities issues at the elementary school.

Plenty! for donating snacks for staff meetings.

Jubilee Cohousing Community for making a donation to the school's general fund.

David and Anita Kessler for donating to the Dragon Tamers' supply budget.

Pamela Pinto from Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary for providing guidance with our Growing Pains campaign.

CERC and Amy Avery for providing assistance with our Growing Pains campagin.

Elaine Martinez for doing the design work for our Local Gifts Coupon Book and for designing our newsletter header.

Wilder Publications and the Dorsett Family Foundation for donating to the scholarship fund.

Catherine Chantal for donating to the High School General Fund.

British Aesospace Engineering Systems
for donating two laptop computers to the High School.

Linda Johnson, Martha Taylor, Winter Koeppe, and Sunny Brontosaurus
for helping in the classroom.

Anonymous Donor
for paying the school mortgage.



Blue Mountain Elementary School 

470 Christiansburg Pike, Floyd, Virginia 24091

Blue Mountain High School  

PO Box 943, Floyd, Virginia 24091